Life at the Site

Porch of the expedition house with staff
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Porch of the expedition house with staff
Porch of the expedition house with staff

Excavation seasons at Ur usually ran from mid-October to early March, cold and rainy months in southern Iraq. The excavation staff lived in a house on the site that was constructed with ancient baked bricks from around the mound. The construction of this building was a high priority when Woolley arrived and was expensive (£200). Built around a courtyard, the house had a sitting room, bedrooms, workrooms, offices, a bathroom, and a toilet. A generator provided electricity, but the house had few other amenities and its roof leaked during heavy winter rains.

Artifacts from the excavations were stored in the house until the end of each season with the exception of any gold artifacts which were consigned to a bank. In the fourth season (1925–26), Gordon sent a Victrola record player and records for the staff to enjoy. Although Woolley did not approve of such diversions, he reported that the staff, including his Arab foreman Hamoudi, enjoyed the selections.

Woolley’s local workers lived in a village about four miles away. Work began at first light, so the men left their homes while it was still dark. The workers’ children brought their fathers’ mid-day meals to them, and, once their chore was done, they searched for small finds across Diqdiqqeh, a series of low mounds to the northeast of Ur’s outer walls, to give Woolley in exchange for a small sum of money (Arabic bakshish).

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